Wonderful World of Color

What color is the Castle?

Seems like a simple enough question. Judging by the above Walt Disney World file photo (©Disney - date unknown), one would have to conclude it is blue and gray, with a touch of gold. But is it? The answer is yes... and no. Let's take a closer look:

Upon its debut, the Castle was decked out in a very straightforward pallet. Over the years, though, subtle enhancements have been worked in to help make the Castle look its absolute best. Today, Cinderella Castle is blue, gray, gold, beige, peach, and a multitude of other hues. It's one of the truly wonderful things about Disney theme parks. They are always in a state of continuous improvement, a philosophy mapped out by Walt Disney with the original Disneyland. He was constantly looking for ways to make the park experience even better for his Guests.

Most recently, when the Castle was to be refreshed following the Happiest Celebration on Earth, Disney's Imagineers embraced the opportunity to give Cinderella's home a richer, more elegant appearance. Cool earth tones were introduced, providing a sense of warmth and welcome, and detailed patterns were added to some of the spires.

While the casual observer may not even notice the difference, it's this sort of subtle enhancement over the years which helps keep the Magic Kingdom fresh and Cinderella Castle as magical as ever.

Coming to America

The Crystal Arts shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom Park was recently expanded. As part of that effort, a new story line was incorporated into the location, telling a tale of the American Dream.

It's the story of the Ferrante family, who immigrated to the United States from Spain in the 1800s, establishing their first glass-blowing business in New York City. On one of the walls of the Main Street shop can be found a framed photo of that first location, as well as pictures taken of the family's arrival at Ellis Island.

Proudly displayed around the corner is Tomas Ferrante's official Certificate of Citizenship, along with the first American dollar he earned.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the story behind Crystal Arts, though, is how much of it is based in fact. Crystal Arts is what is known as an Operating Participant location. That is, it is owned and operated by a company other than Disney. In this case, the company is Arribas Bros.

The Arribas brothers, Tomas and Alfonso, were chosen by the Spanish Cultural Ministry to represent Spain at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. It was there that they met Walt Disney, who was impressed with their skills and invited the brothers to come to the states and practice their craft at Disneyland. The first Arribas Bros. glass shop and studio opened at Disneyland in 1967. Today, the company has expanded to host locations in all five Disney resorts around the world.

To learn more about the Arribas brothers and their beautiful creations, visit Crystal Arts on Main Street, U.S.A. or their website: www.arribas.com

Sweet Tooth

Progress is the name of the game here at the turn of the 20th century on Main Street, U.S.A. Everywhere you look, new innovations are helping to make life brighter and better. Some of the most prosperous locations on Main Street are those whose proprietors have embraced the exciting new trends and technologies. A great example is the Main Street Confectionery. Once a small candy shop, the Confectionery has grown by leaps and bounds, expanding into the entire corner of Main Street and Town Square.

As the story goes, Confectionery owners Thomas and Kitty McCrumb attended the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago back in 1893, where Thomas was particularly impressed with all the mechanical marvels on display at Machinery Hall. The McCrumbs returned home from the Fair, and Thomas set about applying his inspiration to the creation of fantastic new devices for making candies and chocolates.

This mechanization led to all the amazing growth and success seen at the Main Street Confectionery ever since. Today, the Confectionery is a wonderland of colorful contraptions, but if you look closely, you can find a few nods to the shop's more humble origins. In the back corner, behind the fudge counter, can be found displays of some of Thomas McCrumb's earliest attempts at mechanization. Here, you'll also find hung on the wall an original souvenir program from the 1893 Fair.

For those who haven't already picked up on it, this back story for the Main Street Confectionery actually includes some fun references to Disney history.

Walt Disney's father, Elias, worked as a contractor on the World's Columbian Exposition after moving his young family to Chicago in the early-1890s. Later, he would build the home on Tripp Avenue where Walt was born in 1901. The 1893 Chicago World's Fair also plays into the story of the Crystal Arts shop on Main Street, and the 2nd-story window tribute to Elias Disney (on Center Street in the Magic Kingdom) lists his profession as Contractor.

The other historical reference has to do with the name of the Confectionery's proprietor. In a little bit of Disney irony, the owner of the candy shop actually gets his name from a dentist. Dr. Thomas McCrumb commissioned Walt Disney to make one of his very first films in 1922, an educational piece entitled Tommy Tucker's Tooth.

Gossip Girls

Cousins Nancy and Julia Carey have been established as the proprietresses of the Le Chapeau hat shop on Town Square. These young ladies are perfect for this business, with their flair for fashion, flirting, and femininity, but they also love to gossip about everything and everyone in town.

Just inside the door of their shop, you'll find this telephone. Of course, in this period few people had a phone, much less a dedicated line. Many of the phones of the day were installed in business establishments as an attraction to draw in customers, and most of those would have been "party lines."

With a party line, several customers shared the same telephone connection, resulting in a certain lack of privacy. By simply picking up the receiver while someone else was on the line, you could listen in on their conversation. No doubt, the Carey girls enjoy spending time between millinery jobs following what everyone else is up to... and carrying on about it to each other.

Next time you pay a visit to the town of Main Street, step inside and pick up the phone. You might just be surprised at what you hear.

My Regards to Mr. Popham

The story of the Emporium on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom is told through several subtle details, but right up front we're told who owns the place. These display windows, flanking the corner entrance off Town Square, proudly list Osh Popham as proprietor.

Osium "Osh" Popham was the character played by Burl Ives in the 1963 Disney film Summer Magic. In the movie, Popham is the local postman and runs the general store in the town of Beulah, Maine. Apparently, he decided to follow his son and move to the big city of Main Street, U.S.A.

Tracking the dates along the building, one can surmise that the original Emporium opened on the corner of Main and Center Streets in 1863. The store gradually grew over the years, taking on the whole block and eventually expanding across Center Street itself with the opening of the Emporium Gallery in 1901.

While the window acknowledgement is the only direct reference in the Emporium to Osh Popham, Summer Magic pops up elsewhere. Nancy Carey (Hayley Mills) and her cousin Julia (Deborah Walley) are the proprietresses of the nearby Le Chapeau. The background music on Main Street is also filled with tunes from the film, including Flitterin', Femininity, and Beautiful Beulah.

Excuse Me, But Where Can I Smoke?

This fellow, found on Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom, helps tell the story of this small town. He's also a remnant of Walt Disney World past.

Popularly known as "Cigar Store Indians," statues like these were once used as a form of advertising, letting patrons know that tobacco products could be found inside. The statue worked on two fronts. It was a form of "visual literacy," able to communicate even to those who couldn't read. Many people at this time in history associated Indians and peace pipes, so the message was clear. The Indian statue also served as a "porch magnet," an object which would draw the attention of passersby who then would hopefully notice the attractive wares for sale in the windows of the store.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, Main Street actually featured a Tobacconist shop. Located on the west side of the street, between the House of Magic and Refreshment Corner, it was approximately where the northernmost entrance to the Hall of Champions is today. By the late '80s, smoking was rapidly falling out of vogue, and the Tobacconist closed. The Indian moved across the street in front of the Market House, where tobacco products could still be purchased, but were discreetly tucked under the counter.

Since the institution of designated smoking areas in Disney Parks around 2000, tobacco products are no longer sold (although they are still available in Resort shops). The Cigar Store Indian remains, however, as a story detail on Main Street, U.S.A. Look for him near the northeast corner of Main and Center Streets, in front of the Crystal Arts shop, which expanded into the former Market House location in 2008.

Next time you're in the Park, also be on the lookout for this Indian's twin. Any guesses where in the Magic Kingdom he might be found?

Hold Your Horses

Ever notice these beautifully sculpted posts in the Magic Kingdom Park? They can be found along the edge of the sidewalk, up and down Main Street, U.S.A. They're just one of the myriad details used to help tell the story of this turn-of-the-20th-century town. Main Street represents a period of optimism and progress, when exciting new developments are occurring all the time. Electric lights are replacing gas lamps. Photography is becoming available to the masses, and newfangled horseless carriages are sharing the road with "ol' Dobbin."

These posts would be used by visitors to town, to secure their horses while they step inside to take care of business, be it with City Hall or the corner Emporium. The posts serve no practical purpose in a modern theme park, but are a subtle yet important element in the telling of the story of Main Street, U.S.A. It's just one of the things that makes Disney's Parks different and infinitely rich and entertaining.

Cameos on Witch Mountain

I went to see "Race to Witch Mountain" last night, and it was a lot of fun. I would recommend it, even if you've never seen the original Witch Mountain films from the '70s. If you are a fan of the original, though, you'll love seeing the Winnebago pop up and noting that part of the movie takes place in the small town of Stony Creek. In that town, we meet a waitress named Tina (Kim Richards, who played Tia Malone in "Escape" and "Return") and Sheriff Antony (Ike Eisenmann, the original Tony Malone).

At one point, our heroes have a close encounter with a train. We see the train's engineer for a brief moment, but he's portrayed by none other than Dick Cook, head of the Walt Disney Studios. Dick started his Disney career as a train operator on the Disneyland Railroad.

So far, these appearances and homages were ones I had known about and expected, but "Race to Witch Mountain" also had a surprise in store. About 10 minutes in, a TV reporter is on screen, doing a story about a major event which has occurred. The reporter was attractive and vaguely familiar, but once she identified herself, I nearly fell out of my chair. She closed the report with, "Reporting live, this is Natalie Gann."

The actress playing the reporter was none other than Meredith Salenger, whose first film role was in the 1985 Disney film "The Journey of Natty Gann," costarring John Cusack. I'm still not sure what the connection might be, but I was delighted to see this small nod to the Studio's past. In fact, it made me wonder what other tidbits might be in the movie. Hopefully others will be revealed in time. Meanwhile, I'm planning on adding "The Journey of Natty Gann" to my Netflix queue. It'll be nice to see it again after all these years.

Les Chefs

Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenotre, Roger Verge, and... Remy the rat? That's right. There's a new chef in the kitchen at Les Chefs de France at Epcot, although this particular celebrity chef spends most of his time in the dining room mingling with Guests.

The latest project from Walt Disney Imagineering's Living Character initiative, Remy first made his debut at the Rendez-Vous des Stars restaurant in Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Resort Paris. Now, the star of Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille can be spotted daily at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The Living Character program at WDI is an initiative to leverage technology to bring Disney characters to life in the parks like never before. The very first version of a Living Character was DRU-1, a robotic dolphin showcased in The Living Seas pavilion at Epcot for a five-day test run in October 1999.

Since then, other Living Character projects have included Meeko (appearing with Pocahontas for storytelling sessions at Disney's California Adventure), Lucky the dinosaur (now participating in Adventures by Disney tours at the WDI campus in Glendale), and Muppet Mobile Labs (currently entertaining Guests at Hong Kong Disneyland, after stints in DCA and Epcot).

The Living Character initiative has also produced amazing animated creations, beginning with the Stitch Phone once featured in Innoventions at Disneyland. That experiment ultimately grew into the creation of the Stitch Live! shows seen in Hong Kong and Paris. An animated, interactive Stitch will also soon be part of the Stitch's Supersonic Celebration live show in Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World. Beyond 626, Guests also now have the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Crush from Finding Nemo (Turtle Talk attractions are featured at Epcot, Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland) and a gang of comedic monsters at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor attraction in the Magic Kingdom Park in Florida.


Of the many innovations incorporated into EPCOT Center when it opened back in 1982, one of the most seen but least recognized is that of Alucobond. Alucobond was first produced in the U.S. in 1978 by Alcan Composites. It was a revolutionary aluminum-plastic composite material, designed to be used in architectural designs to provide a sleek, contemporary appearance with minimal maintenance. Today, Alucobond is widely used for everything from office buildings to gas stations, but one of the first large-scale installations of the material was for the surface of Spaceship Earth. As a testament to its strength and durability, the Alucobond panels of Spaceship Earth still impress after more than 26 years.

More on D23

From Disney's official press release:

On March 10, 2009, Disney announced the launch of D23, the first official community for Disney fans in the Company's 85-year history. Through D23, fans will go backstage, behind closed doors and get the inside scoop from every part of the Company, while experiencing the nostalgia, adventure and fantasy of Disney as never before.

"At Disney, we have a fantastic legacy that started in 1923 and is based on timeless stories, beloved characters and unforgettable experiences, but it's our fans who keep the spirit of Disney alive year after year, generation after generation," said Disney President and CEO Bob Iger. "D23 is our way of saying 'thank you' and celebrating our fans, who bring the magic of Disney to life every day in every corner of the world."

The name D23 pays homage to the wonder and excitement that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his fledgling studio in Hollywood. Through the years, Disney has captured the imagination of millions around the world and, as requested by Disney fans everywhere, D23 gives them a greater, richer connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic.

I'm already a member and can't wait to receive my membership kit and the first issue of Disney twenty-three magazine. I've also started to make plans to be in Anaheim in September for the first annual D23 Expo. Will you be there, too? Are you 23?

Visit www.disney.com/D23 for regular updates, cool Disney info, and more!

Are you 23?

One of the most intriguing viral marketing campaigns in Disney history has all led to this... a big announcement from Disney CEO Bob Iger during tomorrow's shareholder meeting. Just what is all the excitement about? Well, if you follow certain blogs or message boards, you may already have a pretty good idea. All I'm going to say for now is...

I'm 23. Are you? Find out tomorrow!



To all who come to this virtual place, Welcome.

Since the earliest days of Disneyland, storytelling has been key in setting the Disney theme park experience apart from all others. It started when Walt selected filmmakers from his Studio to create the Park. They approached their task with a filmmaker's eye and a storyteller's point of view. The techniques developed in the 1950s have been refined in the decades since and with every new theme park experience crafted by Disney's Imagineers.

As with film, everything at Imagineering starts with a script. That script could take the form of a short treatment or a multi-page essay. It becomes the blueprint from which all the other Imagineering disciplines find inspiration. Sets. Costumes. Props. Lighting. Everything works in harmony to create a sense of place and tell the story.

These stories are not always obvious to the first-time visitor, and that's intentional. After all, Disney is in the details. Multiple layers of detail throughout the parks provide a sense of richness to the experience of a first-timer, then serve to reward the repeat visitor with serendipitous discoveries of little gems previously unnoticed.

Through these posts, you'll find Disney details large and small, as well as other thoughts and comments. May they enhance your appreciation of the Disney Parks and the art of the Imagineers and Disney Cast Members... and become a "source of joy and inspiration to all the world."